We were reminded recently of a costly missed opportunity for Albany State University and our community when the Ray Charles Foundation made a $3 million donation to Morehouse College to help build a Fine Arts Center in honor of the music legend.
It's a center that should have been built here in Ray Charles' hometown. More than a decade ago, Charles made donated 3-million dollars to ASU. Back then, University officials said they would use the money to build the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center. State money for the project was held up, and the school ended up spending most of the donated money for scholarships and other expenses.
The Ray Charles Foundation demanded the money back and even asked the Georgia Attorney General's Office to intervene. Last year, Albany State relented and repaid most of the money. University leaders still insist Ray Charles placed no restrictions on how ASU could use his donation, and an investigation by the University System of Georgia showed the college did not inappropriately spend the money.
But that's not the point. It's clear the initial plan was to build a center in Ray Charles' name, and that's certainly what his foundation wanted. Because of the size of the gift, the University should have bent over backwards to make the foundation happy.
ASU may never get another donation that large. It certainly won't ever have another chance to have a building named after Albany's most famous native, a facility that would have attracted students and brought prestige to our area.